Friday, 18 June 2010

Buried Alive

So far the summer of 2010 is proving to be a good one for peak sport climbing conditions. The Cornice is already as dry as late summer 2005, which was the last time it came into condition, and we aren’t even at longest day yet. Now it could all go horribly wrong and I hate to tempt fate, mid-summer monsoons do seem to be the pattern after all, but you never know this might just turn out to be a mega summer. If the Cornice fully dries and stays dry I predict that it’ll get the re-bolt it needs, loads of things that haven’t been repeated in years (including the legendary Monumental Armblaster), will see some action, second ascents will happen and maybe even the odd new things will get put up.
All this dry climbing at the Cornice reminds me of the year I got involved with another seepage prone peak crag, Thor’s Cave. Yep, I'm going to bang the Thor's drum, again! It’d be nice to think that now we have some dryness that this awesome venue will also see some well deserved attention. I guess part of it’s apparent obscurity is that there aren’t many inspiring pictures of the routes out there, it’s a bit of a drive from Sheffield and it’s just off the collective radar of most sport climbers. This is a damn shame as it’s the nearest you’ll get to Spanish madness without having to get on a plane. The other problem is that people have tended to only think of the place when wracking their brains for somewhere cool and shady to go in the worst muggy days of summer. As the wise will know, cave get goppy in such weather. Conditions wise the crag behaves somewhat like a seacliff and if treated the same way you won’t go wrong. Just like for instance St Govan’s it will suffer condensation on hot still days, especially in the morning. Go late in the day on muggy days, or save it for a fresher day, maybe with a bit of a breeze and it will be fine. Or ask me to assess the forecast and I’ll make an educated guess for you.
I’ll describe the route here and maybe someone will be tempted to check the place out.
Thormen’s is a well known and justly popular 7c+/8a with spectacular upside down climbing in the arch barrel of the front entrance. Further back the cave opens out into a huge vaulted chamber, well lit by the main entrance and the west window. The routes in the body of the cave by the nature of the space tend to finish at the apex of roof as opposed to the top of the crag.


The easiest and most popular of these is Midgard Serpent 7b+, a crazy line up a ridiculously overhanging trench, requiring imagination and proficient use of knees.
Its companion route Fenris is a touch less steep following a line of attractive pods to a boulder problem crux, again at 7b+.

Aussie nice guy Matt Kelly on Midgard Serpent

Next up difficulty wise is Loki the Trickster 7c. Loki initially climbs a flat overhanging wall on spaced pockets to a mini flake, it then makes a desperate move left on a slopey hold that looks like a fossil plum and finishes up a steady groove. You’re then on to the real quality, a pair of long 7c+s taking either side of the internal arch at its highest.
The lefthand one, Spear of Odin, takes a Malhamesque gently overhanging wall on pockets flakes, undercuts, rock ears and a short tufa. It then gets really steep until a swing onto the opposite side of the arch is forced, then some amazing 3D strangeness with bridging, a kneebar, cutlooses and footlocks to gain ‘the belfry’ a hanging chimney hands off rest where the route finishes.

Spear of Odin

The other 7c+ Escape to Valhalla is my favourite route in the cave with totally unique climbing from start to finish on brilliant rock. It gains the same finishing moves as Spear but this time via a line of huecos up the cave’s central grey pillar. The moves to get in and out of the crux hueco are truly bonkers and bound to put a smile on your face. The crux involves quite a span and the only repeat ascent so far was by a shorty who was forced to make an inferior leftward deviation here, which is a shame as this misses out the best climbing. The extended finish along the lower of the two roof faults is a thrutchy 8a called Ragnarok, but it makes more sense to do this section as part of the next route.

Escape goes up the pillar on the left into a huge hole in the roof, the continuation along the roof is Ragnarok

Most recently Dan Varian upped the cave ante with his Muoguo 8b+. Which take the theme of super steep technical roofwork to a whole different level. And there are still a few lines to go.
As well as the single pitch stuff the crag has one exceedingly weird outing that has yet to be repeated, or indeed completed without falls in a single push. You will not find anything even remotely similar anywhere else in the Peak. It’s more akin to seacave oddities like Preposterous Tales than anything else in the peak, but being an old aid route is very well protected with bolts. Buried Alive is a six pitch outing which frees the aid route Osiris in its entirety, starting in the cave’s darkest eastern recess, following a twisting line of weakness in the roof and eventually emerging to finish at the top of the crag via the classic HVS West Window Groove.

Looking back at the start of Buried Alive. Spear goes up the LH sidewall, Escape goes up the right.

Kristian on pitch one of Buried Alive

Here’s the description:
Buried Alive 7c+ ***
A very weird journey freeing the old aid route Osiris. Starting in the deepest recesses of the cave and finishing on top of the hill. Could probably be done in fewer pitches with careful ropework.

Pitch 1: E3 5c/6b+ - From almost the far end of the west passage climb a muddy ramp (bold) on the right to gain the line of bolts in the roof. Chimney along the rift past lots of aid bolts and spiders to an awkward about turn move to gain a subsidiary chimney on the North wall. Headtorchs essential!
Pitch 2: 6c+ - Traverse from the sub-chimney along the north wall up into the high rift. Continue along this clipping what bolts you can reach beneath you. Where the rift closes off make a tricky dropdown onto a muddy jug and swing down onto the south wall where a hanging belay can be arranged.
Pitch 3: 7c+ - Traverse the south wall into Ragnarok and follow this passing the crux moves around a corner into a hanging slab/ramp, belay.
Pitch 4: 7b+ - The thrutchy bunched traverse section of Ragnarok followed to where this ends at a hands off position in a small chimney, belay.
Pitch 5: 6a – A short pitch dropping down and through the west window to attain the outside world. The second may wish to use a back rope.
Pitch 6: HVS – Finish up West Window Groove for the summit experience.

The forecast for the weekend looks ideal, sunny with a breeze. Someone for god sake go and do some of these route, then there'll be two of us banging on about how good they are rather than just me!

1 comment: said...

I reckon just 8b for muoguo, as it isn't any harder than Kali yuga in retrospect. Needs repeats for sure though. what an awesome crag, spear of odin is as good as thormens for sure